Saturday, July 26, 2014

HUGE Win #4 against my insurance company thanks to the Mental HealthParity Law

Each time our insurance company denies my son the care he needs, and I decide to report them to the CA State Insurance Commissioner for an inappropriate denial, I am stronger and more sure of myself. My immediate cause is more concretely etched in my mind, my words flow more smoothly, and my mind is keen to use any and every possible weapon to support my cause that I can.

My cause is a powerful one. I am a mom fighting for her son's life.

Fortunately, (and in the mysterious ways of the world, plus a caring friend's suggestion), it was put upon my path early in 2014 to attend a NAMI support class with my husband (learn more by clicking here). NAMI stands for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which is an organization that provides the most up-to-date information on mental illness research and findings. My reasons to explore NAMI were many, but primarily to unite together as a family to be able to best support our son with his terrible depression, and addiction issues. We learned so much from this Family to Family group of classes, connected with others who were going through similar trials with loved ones, and found a new tool box for being able to relate to our son. Also, we found better ways to support our younger son during the regular upheavals our family was going through then, and continues to go through to this day. Our NAMI classes lasted for twelve weeks. We also attended a yearly event put on by NAMI called the "NAMI Walk", where we connected with local organizations offering even more support for families dealing with mental illness, and similar disorders of the brain. Powerful, powerful stuff...

So, NAMI is who I credit for fortifying my head with a whole armory of information that supports individuals with mental illness. This is where I learned about the Mental Health Parity Law.

The Federal Parity Law, which, beginning January 1, 2014, was amended and expanded under the Affordable Care Act. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 applies to most all forms of health insurance, and states the health plan should provide all medically necessary treatments for severe mental illnesses, including necessary residential care. Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity information sheet as put out by SAMHSA can be found here.

There was absolutely no reason my son should be excluded from receiving the care he needs, for as long as he needs it. And, even though our insurance plan only covers 100 days of residential care each calendar year, the Mental Health Parity Law allowed for my son's residential care coverage BEYOND the 100 day mark! The cost of residential therapeutic care is so incredibly high, and when a family has basically gone bankrupt due to the high cost of this type of care in an effort to help a family member, it is a huge relief that there are government regulated systems in place so a family can get some sort of a financial break. Our cumulative savings for six months of care at this center were just shy of $100,000! That's ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS.

Wow. Just Wow.

These Laws and systems are available to everyone. Every state has a reporting agency for inappropriate actions taken by insurance companies. If your insurance company denies mental health or addiction coverage for a family member, even if your coverage does not specifically cover that type of care, you can fight this denial! Do not be afraid to ask questions, and stand up when things are not right. I never went into this being a whistle blower. I just know the difference between right and wrong. And, who will stand up for my son, his needs, and his rights, when he cannot do it on his own?

My next step? Becoming involved with NAMI in order to advocate for youth who struggle with Dual Disorders of the brain. I want to support these struggling teens and help their families navigate this difficult road. I am ready. I am willing. I will do what I can.

* To read more about the steps I took to fight my insurance company, please read this post:

Sunday, July 13, 2014

NAMI presents Marijuana and the Developing Brain

I would like to bring your attention to NAMI, the National Alliance for Mental Illness. Their programs are designed to help families of those suffering from a mental health condition. Mental illness touches every family. The educational information you receive through NAMI is the most up-to-date on the topic you're concerned about. You can get more information about NAMI by visiting


Marijuana and the Developing Brain:
New Risks and Realities for Ventura County 
Dan Hicks & Richard La Perriere
Ventura County Behavioral Health
Earlier this year, Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) noted that there have been significant changes over the last 20 years in Marijuana. Levels of THC -- the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana - have gone up a great deal, from 3.75 percent in 1995 to an average of 15 percent in today's marijuana. 

She notes: "Daily use today can have stronger effects on a developing teen brain than it did 10 or 20 years ago."

The potency of marijuana has increased to over 20% THC in the same time period, while availability and heavy use among adolescents have continued to rise.

This presentation will outline contemporary research on the effects of Marijuana on the teen brain, and address a range of issues now discussed across Ventura County, including availability, potency, modes of administration, levels of use, perceived harm, cognitive effects and local youth prevention strategies. 

Understanding the current local context of marijuana use and scientific studies on the effects of marijuana on the developing brain, the presenters will share views from the behavioral health field, including the risks of dependence, lasting cognitive declines, links between use and problem behavior, and implications for prevention and treatment.   
Dan Hicks is Manager, Prevention Services - Ventura County Behavioral Health Department. A graduate of Princeton University, Dan has been an alcohol and drug policy advocate for 20 years, working closely with city and county governments, public safety agencies, and retail alcohol establishments. He has facilitated policy discussions of among elected officials, police officers, parents groups and regional media, and helped establish Ventura County Limits - responsible prevention policies and practices locally.

Richard La Perriere has 20 years of experience with alcohol & drug treatment services, and is a Clinic Administrator in the Alcohol & Drug Programs at VCBH.
All General Meetings are Free and Open to the Public.
NAMI General Meetings are open to anyone interested in learning about mental illness. Speakers address a wide range of topics such as: research on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, new medications, proven rehabilitation approaches, financial planning for families with a disabled member, early diagnosis and intervention, public and other community mental health services, disability benefits, etc.

Please contact NAMI Ventura County for more information on this program, and others like it by visiting this web page: